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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9285

Mr MITCHELL (McEwenSecond Deputy Speaker) (12:50): Today I rise to speak on the importance of 3 September, Australian National Flag Day. This year marks the 113th birthday of our national symbol. It is a day for communities and individuals, local organisations, schools and businesses to celebrate the anniversary of our flag.

In 1901, to mark Australia's Federation, Australia's first Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Sir Edmund Barton, announced an international competition to design a flag for the new nation. It attracted some 32,823 entries. Five new identical entries were awarded equal first prize and the designers shared in the 200 pound prize. Since it was first flown over the Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 3 September 1901, the Australian flag has been the dominant symbol for all of us in times of adversity, in hardship, in war and peace and throughout our nation's prosperity.

The original design of the Australian flag has been changed three times since 1901, according to Ausflag. First, in 1903 the design was changed so that all but the smallest star in the Southern Cross had seven points, to improve the ease of manufacture. In 1906, Australia acquired the territory of Papua, and to indicate—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12 : 52 to 13 : 05

Mr MITCHELL: In 1906 Australia acquired the Territory of Papua and to indicate this the number of points on the Federation Star was increased to seven in 1908. This, the second design change, was also gazetted on 22 May 1909. Our flag symbolises our optimism for a common future together. In fact, as was pointed out previously by the member for Ryan, it is the only flag in the world to fly over one entire continent.

In recent years communities across the electorate of McEwen, whom I represent, have known more than most the strengths and uniqueness of our flag. You only have to look at our communities that were affected by the bushfires on Black Saturday in 2009 and the bushfires that rushed through other parts of our electorate and townships in February this year. Flags were flying proudly from anything left standing—fences, trees, cars and the remains of homes. In the supporting towns they stood as a call to arms at our local halls, sporting clubs and community centres, which were turned into relief centres. Our flag symbolised our spirit and strength that we would never give up hope. It is our spirit; it is our nation; and it is our Australia. Flying our flag was a symbol that all was not lost. It was a sign that we are down but not out and that the strength, unity and mateship our country has become synonymous with still beats in our hearts. Whether on the fields of battle, the fields of sporting triumph or in the aftermath of disaster, we know that our flag is a symbol of a proud Australia. The Australian national flag is a symbol of the common pride we have in our nation. No matter where you go in this world our symbol is a sign that you are home, that friends here for you.

Over the past couple of months we have been across the electorate replacing flags in schools and community organisations across our community, places such as: Macedon Ranges Shire Council, Sunbury fire and police stations, Wallan fire and police stations, Mount Ridley College in Craigieburn, from our scouts in Doreen, to RSL branches right across the electorate, in Seymour, Romsey/Lancefield, Puckapunyal Primary School, Kilmore , Primary School, Killara Primary School and Sunbury Downs College—and even as late as Saturday, at the Kilmore Bowling Club.

I proudly display the Australian flag in my office here in parliament and also in the electorate office in Craigieburn. I encourage individuals, community organisations, local authorities, businesses and schools to join in the celebration by flying or displaying the Australian national flag. Of course we have several other official Australian flags: the Australian Aboriginal flag, the Torres Strait Islanders flag and the ensigns of the Australian Defence Force. All can be proudly on display for everyone to see. And of course we do not have to limit our flag-bearing to 3 September. The Australian flag can be flown every day of the year, not to mention on other important occasions like Australia Day and Anzac Day.

I also wish to remind everyone in our community that if you require an Australian national flag, an Australian Aboriginal flag or Torres Strait Islander flag, to contact your local federal member of parliament and we will happily provide one to you. Australian National Flag Day is an important date in our national calendar. We are all proud to be Australian and what better way to show that pride than standing together and flying our national symbol proudly.